1.6M OFWs displaced by pandemic
More than half million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were displaced by the pandemic abroad while an estimated 1.1 million more were unable to resume or start working overseas since January, official figures showed.
According to data from the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole), as of Oct. 20, there were 505,837 OFWs who were affected by the pandemic, including the 864 who died out of the 9,402 OFWs who contracted COVID-19.
A total 496,435 OFWs were reported to have lost their jobs due to the global economic shutdown.
The Dole said 260,575 of the distressed OFWs had already been repatriated while 131,047 were still waiting to be brought home.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he was surprised to find that 104,813 OFWs opted to stay to stay put rather than face economic uncertainty in the Philippines.
“There are thousands (of OFWs) who lost their jobs or cannot go to their jobs because of the lockdown,” Bello said in an online media forum on Wednesday.
Based on last year’s deployment data, the Dole estimated that over 1 million returning and newly hired OFWs were unable to be deployed.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported that 682,000 OFWs left the country from January to September this year, of which 440,000 are land-based while 241,000 are sea-based workers.
The overseas deployment is 60 percent less than 1.72 million OFWs deployed during the same period last year but the Dole admitted that the one-time government assistance of $200 for displaced OFWs has so far been able to reach only 302,198 OFWs.
The Dole has already spent P3.082 billion for the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (Akap) for OFWs, but Bello said the agency has allocated P3 billion more for the program out of its P13-billion additional emergency budget.
Aside from distressed OFWs, Bello has also aired concern for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) that are worried they could not pay their workers the mandatory 13th month salary.
Bello lll estimated that P5 billion to P13.7 billion would be needed to subsidize distressed MSME employers so they could pay their 13th month pay.
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